INTERVIEW: The Wooden Faces | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Adopted Teessider and musical Jack-of-all-trades Dan Donnelly has a new project. With his regular solo pursuits, his place in Celtic Social Club and his associations with other bands over the years he’s no stranger to the music scene, but this particular venture with new band The Wooden Faces is unusual because it came about after an argument about whether analogue or digital recording was superior.

“The album was a result of talking to a good friend of mine who is a music producer and engineer in the North East,” explains Dan. “He was working at Blast Studios at the time and they have a big two inch analogue machine there. We were in the Tanners Arms having a pint and I was saying he should fire up the tape machine as it would sound much warmer than the digital recordings going on. He was telling me he could get as warm a sound with plug-ins on a computer. We had a grand plan to restore the machine at Blast and test out which sounded better but we actually ended up just borrowing an eight track reel to reel and making a true indie album both ways in order to see if there really was a noticeable difference in sound and vibe.”

The songs on Flying The Wrong Way are brimming with immediately accessible pop rock riffs and lyrics that will have you singing along by the second listen. One Winged Angel has some really lovely, delicate vocals and the chiming guitars of Flowers of Regret are a particular highlight. It’s as if the band have taken the best bits of all the music they’ve ever heard and turned them into a collection of brilliant new tunes.

“We aren’t claiming that this is the most original or ground-breaking album you’ll ever hear,” says Dan. “The influences are out on display – 80s indie music, R.E.M., The Smiths and The Pixies. There’s a bit of country in there too – Tom Petty and John Prine. The project itself is what makes the thing truly unique. I don’t think that anyone has done this before. No one would be so tenacious and stubborn to see it through.”

The project itself is what makes the thing truly unique. I don’t think that anyone has done this before

The Wooden Faces are made up of Dan on vocals, Gouven Hamel on guitar and Anth Mills on drums. “Goulven is in Celtic Social Club with me and we are affectionately known as ‘The Gueule de Bois’ brothers as we drink a lot. ‘Gueule de bois’ is French for a hangover and it literally means a face of wood. Anth also likes a drink so we included him in our club and we became The Wooden Faces. We’ve recruited a bass player and are planning to do some gigs once this madness ends. I think we may be playing before the end of the year….especially as I now own a venue (The Peacock in Sunderland)!”

After releasing the album the band held a Facebook poll to find out which recording the listeners preferred. Analogue collected 64% of the votes, agreeing with what Dan thought before the project was complete. “But I forgot what an absolute pain in the backside it was to record like that,” he admits. “There were leads everywhere and we had to write loads of stuff down with pen and paper that computers normally do as a matter of course, like the date and what we had recorded so far and at what point the drums come in etc. I have to admit out of personal vanity I find it more difficult to listen to my vocals on the analogue record without all the fancy digital reverbs. But the customers seem to prefer the analogue sound and it won the Facebook poll hands down. So I guess I ended up moving towards the glitz of the digital and Anth moved towards the analogue because he has the ears of a producer and likes the warm sound.”

The Flying the Wrong Way LP was released simultaneously in May on cassette and digital download, with a download code for the latter included when you buy the former. Alternatively, if you no longer have a cassette player, you can purchase the download on its own. As for which is better – you’ll just have to have a listen and decide for yourself!


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